Miguel Cabrera

Tigers roar back in ninth, 11th to beat Red Sox 13-12

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Alex Avila got barely a sliver of a 2-2 curveball that would have ended the game. On the next pitch, he got a whole lot more of another curve, hitting a walkoff homer to give the Tigers a 13-12 victory over the Red Sox and a three-game sweep in Detroit.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox’s worst-case scenario for the rebuilt bullpen came true: Alfredo Aceves blew a 10-7 lead when Miguel Cabrera hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and Mark Melancon surrendered the 12-10 lead in the 12th .

Aceves, who was named Boston’s closer after Andrew Bailey underwent thumb surgery, gave up hits to all three hitters he faced, though neither of the two singles were hit very hard. The second was handled by a diving Dustin Pedroia, but he couldn’t get the ball out of his glove in time to retire the runner at second.

Cabrera’s homer, though, was a no-doubter.

Melancon retired the first batter he faced before giving up singles to both Cabrera and Prince Fielder, with Fielder hitting a modest grounder right to where the third baseman would have been if the Red Sox hadn’t been shifted over. He came back to get Delmon Young to fly to center, but Avila ended it on one too many curves.

The Red Sox got stellar relief work from their other two pitchers. Vicente Padilla pitched four scoreless innings after Clay Buchholz gave up seven runs in his four innings of work. After the game was tied in the ninth, Franklin Morales came in and struck out three in two scoreless innings. It’s Aceves and Melancon who are supposed to be getting the most important outs, though, and after two appearances, Aceves has an infinite ERA, while Melancon is at 36.00.

The Tigers got five RBI from Cabrera in the game. He finished the series with eighth. Austin Jackson went 4-for-6 and is hitting .570. Avila’s homer was his second already.

The Red Sox wasted excellent offensive performances from surprise leadoff man Nick Punto (3-for-6 with 3 RBI) and Mike Aviles (3-for-5 with three RBI). Aviles, in particular, impressed. He took a high fastball from Max Scherzer into right-center for a two-run double in the second, singled in a run in the third, executed a flawless sac bunt and then aided the 11th-inning rally with a perfect hit-and-run single, advancing Cody Ross from first to third.

All that won’t mean a thing, though. The story tomorrow will be about how the rebuilt Red Sox bullpen is ill-equipped to handle late leads. The call for Daniel Bard to return to the pen will begin before he even makes his first start.

The Blue Jays will . . . not be blue some days next year

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The Toronto Blue Jays, like a lot of teams, will wear an alternate jersey next year. It’ll be for Sunday home games. They call it their “Canadiana,” uniforms. Which, hey, let’s hear it for national pride.

(question to Canada: my grandmother and my three of my four maternal great-grandparents were Canadian. Does that give me any rights to emigrate? You know, just in case? No reason for asking that today. Just curious!).

Anyway, these are the uniforms:

More like RED Jays, am I right?

OK, I am not going to leave this country. I’m going to stay here and fight for what’s right: a Major League Baseball-wide ban on all red alternate jerseys for anyone except the Cincinnati Reds, who make theirs work somehow. All of the rest of them look terrible.

Oh, Canada indeed.

Sports and politics share some of their worst excesses

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19:  Montana alternative delegate Susan Reneau shouts "guilty" as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes a column today — likely part of the Post’s overall Inauguration coverage — about how the world of sports and sports fandom is a refreshing change from the world of politics. It’s a place where “facts are still facts,” he says. Where  “debates, though sometimes loud, are surrounded by oceans of substantiated facts and often informed by respected experts who depend on rational analysis to make their points.” Contrasted with politics, of course, where objective fact has turned into opinion and vice-versa.

I get what he’s trying to say and I think he’s well-intentioned. But I also think he badly misreads both sports discourse and political discourse, each of which have borrowed the worst excesses from the other. And by this I do not mean the extent to which the substance of sports and politics overlap, which we have often argued about in this space. This is not a “stick to sports” point. I’m talking about the way in which sports fans interact with sports and political people interact with politics, even in a relative vacuum.

Politics has coopted sports discourse in the most toxic and wrongheaded of ways. The idea that “scoreboard!” is all that matters. The belief that winning is the only objective as opposed to a means to an end. Notions of rooting and tribalism, and that “our team” and “the opposing team” is the proper way to view the parties to the contest. All of those things — each of which make sense to varying degrees in a sports context — have been imported into politics and have served to degrade them.

Likewise, contrary to what Boswell says, sports fans and commentators have eagerly begun to traffic in political-style reality creation, distortion and spin. He takes an oblique swipe at the “hot takers” like Skip Bayless and talk radio shouters, but he’s deluded if he thinks that they do not have more influence over sports fans than do than “the respected experts who depend on rational analysis to make their points” which he describes. Bayless and his crowd are a direct aping of “Crossfire”-style political shows.

Likewise, the concept of fan loyalty is increasingly discussed and routinely encouraged by sports leagues and teams in terms that were once reserved for party politics. The notion that those who have succeeded have done so because they are worthy and all of those who are worthy have succeeded is likewise fully believed by both sports fans and political actors. The idea that validation of one sort — electoral or competitive — justifies overlooking the political or athletic actor’s real life transgressions likewise crosses political and athletic lines. How much do sports fans and citizens overlook crimes and misdemeanors if there is a sufficient redemption or comeback narrative to cloak them?

Yet Boswell believes there to be a fundamental gap between how sports and politics are practiced and consumed. To explain it, he says this:

One partial explanation for the gap between the way we talk about sports and the way we talk about some other subjects may be the distorting force field of ideology. When we have a deep attachment to unprovable beliefs, ideas and emotions get intertwined. The psychological cost of disentangling them can be profound.

Tell me that you have not witnessed that dynamic among people whose identities have become far too wound up in the sports teams for which they root. There is ideology among sports fans just as much as there is among political partisans, even if the stakes aren’t as high.

He also says this:

For example, Clemson and Alabama have split the past two college football titles. Yet both coaches, in both years, deferred respectfully to the results, didn’t seek scapegoats, didn’t claim the results were invalid and, by their example, encouraged their fans to take pride in the battle — won or lost — and analyze it with enthusiasm but without distortion.

As if sports fans haven’t spent years re-litigating the Tuck Rule, Don Denkinger or Maradona’s Hand of God. As if notions of good sportsmanship and proper perspective are satisfied by merely accepting results. As if cheating scandals, real, imagined or inflated beyond all perspective, have not caused people to question the very legitimacy of the players in question.

As I said at the outset, I get what Boswell is trying to get at. And I find it admirable that he’s looking to sports to find some grace in an increasingly graceless world. Moreover, none of this is to say that sports don’t provide some refuge from raging political storms. They do.

But the world of sports is every bit as susceptible to the reality-denying, magical thinking storms which have increasingly come to characterize politics. And those raging political storms are very much fueled by a type and mode of passion that was first cultivated in sports and repurposed for a larger stage.

I mean, are these things really all that different?

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